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Watchful eyes

During college football season, football analyst Lee Corso routinely tosses out the phrase, "Not so fast," when disagreeing with picks from fellow gurus for college football games.

While the college football season is winding down and only bowl games remain, that phrase isn't about to leave the vernacular of listeners and viewers anytime soon on a local level -- although it won't be coming on ESPN.

Instead, that's the phrase members of the Hays National Education Association are living by when referring to the Hays USD 489 Board of Education.

Hays-NEA recently filed an investigation request alleging a potential violation of Kansas Open Meetings Act against the school board. The complaint, filed Sept. 13 by KNEA UniServ director Kathy Rome, alleges the members of the board "violated the KOMA in offering a contract to the interim superintendent."

While Hays-NEA members have no qualm with Superintendent Dean Katt's work -- at least from a public standpoint -- they are concerned with the manner in which the decision to hire him on an interim basis took place.

"(The filing) was something that was supported by a majority of the officers and building reps that make up the Hays-NEA," Rome told The Hays Daily News. "I never would have filed something like this if they were not supportive of it."

The board tabled a decision at the Aug. 19 board meeting to wait until the Sept. 16 meeting to take action on the interim superintendent position.

On Aug. 23, the district announced the board selected Katt to fill the interim role for the year.

The move caught the attention of Hays-NEA members, who put forth a request with the Kansas Attorney General's office to investigate the matter. Rome also filed the notice with Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees.

After not hearing anything nearly two weeks later, Rome filed the paperwork again.

"This has nothing to do with Mr. Katt at all," Rome told the HDN. "It's simply that we feel that our school board should follow the laws, and follow the procedures as they should be."

KOMA is a law guaranteeing anyone the right to observe governmental policy makers that make decisions affecting your life, according to the state's attorney general's website. School boards fall under this category.

If the board failed in living up to KOMA procedures, Hays-NEA members are asking Katt's contract be voided.

Whether or not this is the case remains to be seen. But the fact the union members are keeping a watchful eye on the local school board and its actions is a comforting thought. When a large portion of tax dollars go to educating our students, all we can ask is someone keeps an eye on the system of checks and balances.

We have no worries Katt will fill the full-time role satisfactorily.

He's already proven a worthy replacement for the retired Will Roth and given new insight to the district.

But when an official the board members voted to hire labeled the district as "non-managed" recently, it's reassuring another group is looking out for the best practices when dealing with taxpayer dollars.

We only hope Hays-NEA members and the rest of the public continue with a "not-so-fast" approach while dealing with future educational needs -- and the best interests altogether -- for the district as a whole, especially with the possibility of a bond issue floating in the air.

Hays-NEA should be applauded for its interest in securing ongoing, open dialogue between board members and those who voted them into office.

Editorial by Nick Schwien

nschwien@dailynews.net